Inside man

Inside man

One gifted freshman played a major role in Tennessee basketball's two exhibition games. Apparently, he'll play an even bigger role once the regular season begins Friday vs. Chattanooga.

Starting power forward Tobias Harris recorded 16 points and 5 rebounds in the exhibition opener vs. Brevard, then came back with 10 points and 11 rebounds vs. Indianapolis. His point totals take on added significance when you consider two facts:

One, Tennessee is desperate for inside scoring.

Two, Tennessee got almost no inside scoring vs. Indy from senior posts Brian Williams (4 points) and John Fields (3).

As a result, the Vols' head coach is considering using the 6-9, 225-pound Harris closer to the basket, where his slick moves and deft shooting touch can be better utilized.

"Tobias Harris was the only inside presence (vs. Indianapolis) that we had offensively," Bruce Pearl said. "We had advantages on the inside, and we didn't take advantage on the inside."

The coach made no attempt to mask his disappointment with the output of Williams and Fields. Neither was a factor on the offensive end of the floor vs. Indianapolis.

"We've had a hard time getting the ball in to the post and had a hard time holding the ball in the post," Pearl noted. "Brian Williams and John Fields were each 1 for 1 (on field-goal tries) but they each had three turnovers. So that's six turnovers to try and get the ball in there some way."

While Williams and Fields were struggling to score on the inside vs. Indy, Harris was giving a clinic on post moves. He is amazingly smooth on the interior.

"We got Tobias some really good touches in there," Pearl said, "and we've got to get him more because he was the most comfortable at catching it."

Harris, who made 11 of 19 field-goal attempts during the two exhibitions, is fine with getting more touches.

"If that's one of the things that can help us win games," he said, "then I'm with it."

Like Pearl and the 16,000-plus Tennessee fans in attendance, Harris was annoyed by the Vols' inability to exploit their height advantage against the seriously undersized Indianapolis Greyhounds.

"It was real frustrating," he said, "but that's what happens when they're changing the speed of the game, instead of us controlling it. That's basically how it happened."

Harris was especially upset with Tennessee's lackluster play at the start of the second half, when Indy turned a 32-40 deficit into a 58-43 lead.

"The game should never have been like it was," he said. "We should've come out the second half with even more firepower than before and continue running our defense but we didn't do that."

Although his play vs. Indy earned praise from Pearl, Harris wasn't overly impressed with the performance.

"I thought I did all right," he said with a shrug. "I didn't do that good. If I had done really well we would've won the game; that's how I look at it."

Perhaps Harris' performance really wasn't "that good." Still, it was significantly better than what Tennessee got from its other interior players. That's why Harris may spend more time down low Friday night vs. Chattanooga.

"There's no question that we need to get him more touches on the inside," Pearl said. "But that's going to move either Brian Williams (6-10, 270) or Kenny Hall (6-9, 225) or John Fields (6-9, 240) to the perimeter ... not exactly their specialty."

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